Getting Ready for 2011

December 31, 2010

The end of one year; the beginning of another. As always, it’s a time to look back and look ahead; to take stock, measure, and reflect. It was generally a good year for me.

  1. I went back to work. Technically, I started that in 2009, but with only a handful of working days in 2009, the achievement of holding down a job still lies in 2010. Now, after one whole year back at work, it really feels like some kind of a milestone, to have been able to hold down a job and still keep the house running more-or-less smoothly.
  2. I signed a contract for getting one book published and wrote another two.
  3. I went on a short but sweet holiday to Italy.
  4. I managed to send off my Archaeology assignment, thus bringing my fifth module to a close. I honestly didn’t think I’d manage to squeeze that in!

Yes, it was a good year. The only thing I’m not happy about is that I gained 5 kilos! But well… you can’t have everything your way.

As I’ve done in recent years, I looked at the goals I’d set for this year in January 2010. Then, I went a step further and looked back over my goals of the past several years and how I’d measured up against them each year. It was an interesting exercise.

January 2007

  1. Lose weight
  2. Improve at tennis – specially backhand!
  3. Go back to playing the violin
  4. Take the next level of German course
  5. Stop doing dull, boring, meaningless work and get involved in something meaningful – or at least exciting
  6. Make at least one new friend
  7. Read at least a book a month
  8. Watch at least two movies a month (at a movie hall)
  9. Travel
  10. Get a publisher for my travel book
  11. Create a photo book

January 2008
I’ve made absolutely no progress on numbers 3, 8, and 10, and only limited progress on number 2 (but not for want of trying).

In 2008, I want to:

  1. Lose weight
  2. Improve at tennis – specially backhand!
  3. Go back to playing the violin
  4. Complete another two modules of my online Archaeology course
  5. Work on a compilation of my existing travel articles for a website, book, or series of freelance articles

January 2009
I think I’ve made some progress on all of these, which is good enough for me.

In 2009, I want to:

  1. Lose weight (this has been on every list I’ve ever made since I was 15. Some things never change.)
  2. Keep playing my violin, no matter what
  3. Get a job, preferably one that lets me work flexible hours, partly from home, provides challenging work, and pays well (in that order; oh, is that asking too much?)
  4. Be as patient as I possibly can with the twins

January 2010
Uh-oh. I didn’t make it – not even close – on 1 and 2. And 4 is kinda doubtful too. But yes, I managed 3! There were a few false starts, but now I’ve finally got a job that I think I’m going to like. And so, in 2010, I want to:

  1. Forget trying to lose weight.
  2. Forget trying to get my books published
  3. Forget getting back to playing my violin regularly
  4. Forget studying archaeology

All I want to do this year is:

  1. Keep my head above water at work
  2. Avert any major household crises
  3. Spend as much time as possible with the kids (without losing my temper)
  4. Remember to smile – this is (mostly) the life I wanted

January 2011
The four goals I wanted to “forget” at the start of 2010 were things I wanted to do but didn’t think I’d have time for. So it’s that much sweeter to know that 2 and 4 on that list have worked out! And so have – to varying extents – the four more modest goals in the second list. 2010 was a good year.

In 2011, I want to:

  1. Excel at work
  2. See my book(s) in the bookshop – one should certainly happen, but if all three can come out by year end, that would be fantastic.
  3. Complete my Archaeology course
  4. Exercise more
  5. Get enough rest and not be tired and short of sleep all the time (looks mutually exclusive with 4 and 5!)

Happy New Year, everyone!

Updates from a Busy Weekend

December 27, 2010

Technically, of course, Thursday was not part of the “weekend”. But it was certainly part of the “busy”.

We dropped the kids off at daycare just before lunch. After lunch, I rushed around trying to get things ready for my parents’ visit tomorrow. At 5, we left home to go to the venue. Just a we were leaving, we got a courier: a much-awaited courier. Almost exactly four months and three years after we brought the kids home, we held the original adoption order in our hands.

It wasn’t exactly the “Hallelujah!” moment we were expecting. The order itself had been signed (after a suspenseful wait) in June. The order copy had been received by the lawyer and corrected by her sometime in September or October. That itself had almost required the filing of another petition – poor Mrini’s name had been left out of the order! Somehow the lawyer convinced whoever it was that needed to be convinced that Mrini’s name could be added in without a separate petition being filed, and sometime in October she had seen the corrected petition. Since then – or maybe ever before that – she’d been busy trying to get the kids’ photographs attached to the adoption order. The latest we’d heard from her, late last week, was that the Judge was none to sure on whether this could be done or should be done or even, if it were done, who should be the one to sign for it. So, he told the lawyer to file a petition to have the photos attached, and then he added that he didn’t know under what section of the law the petition should be filed.

We only wanted their photos attached to the adoption order because the passport application form states that if you are applying for the passport of an adopted child, the adoption order should be submitted and it should have a photo attached. You can see where they’re coming from – they don’t want some kind of child trafficking racket going on – but why can’t the Judge see it?

In the end, we told the lawyer to send us the order sans the photo and we’ll use that to apply for their passports and if it works, well and good. And if it doesn’t, we’ll try and get a letter from the Passport Office stating that the photo is required. And let’s see how that goes – it doesn’t look to me like a letter from the Passport Office is going to do the trick, but maybe the Passport officer will take pity on us and not bother about the photo.

Still, until we actually get their passports, we aren’t sure whether we’re done with the Pondicherry court or not. Sigh.

All the same, we had the original order in our hands now, and that called for celebration. But first, we had a dance show to attend.

We drove an hour through the worst of city traffic to reach the venue around 6.30. Luckily, we arrived just as the kids did. From then till 8.15 or so, we hung around waiting for their turn. Since their troupe (they’re part of a troupe now) of 4 boys and 4 girls was in the girls’ green room, Amit was shooed out and he went and sat in the audience. I spent some time backstage and some time in the audience. There was at least one other parent and the coordinator with the kids, and the coordinator is extraordinarily competent, so this time there was no chaos. Plus, it helped that all the other artistes were much older – the youngest act apart from our kids’ act, was of 12-13 year-olds. It probably also helped that for several of their troupe including Mrini and Tara, this was not their first time on stage, so they knew what to expect.

Strangely enough, even though the other performers were much older and much more skilful, the tiny tots were not put on as the first act – or even the second act. They were made to hang around backstage and periodically shushed until the interval. Then, at last, they got to go on stage.

Despite Tara’s assertion that they were doing The Twelve Days of Christmas, what the actually danced to was We Wish You A Merry Christmas and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. The act was much better than their first time on stage – all the kids did their thing, not exactly in synch but close enough. Even Tara, who was tucked away in the back row, did her bit. At the start of the second part of their number, they all had to jump and both Mrini and Tara so loved this that they went on jumping well after everyone else had moved on to the next step. But that’s all part of the fun and on the whole it was not too bad at all.

Since it was already 8.30 and they kids’ had had a very active evening with very little food, we hauled them off as soon as they got of stage. At the car park, we seated them in the dicky and fed them roti and boiled chicked that I’d had the foresight to carry along. They stayed awake until 10, when we reached home, gave them some milk and put them in their nightclothes. Then, they crashed.

On Friday, nana and nani – my parents – were to arrive. Their plane should have landed early in the evening and they should have reached home well before the kids went to bed. But fog at the Bangalore airport threw all flights off schedule, so they eventually reached home only at 11, by which time the kids were in bed and fast asleep (and I was asleep on my feet).

The rest of the weekend was a blur of outings, tennis, meals, desserts, beer, coffee, and of course, conversation. Tara finally agreed to join the tennis coaching batch, but as Amit observed, she was so busy talking to the other kids and watching stuff around her that she wouldn’t have noticed if no balls were actually thrown at her. In fact, I’m not sure she even made contact with a single ball in the two 90 minute sessions. Mrini, however, was largely unperturbed by Tara’s presence and did her bit as diligently as ever.

All in all, it was a happy weekend – and made much merrier by the fact that the whole of next week is a holiday! One part of me can’t believe that I’m using up five whole days of vacation just to stay at home and do “nothing”; but the other part of me is wondering why we never did this before!

‘Tis The Season To Be Jolly…

December 22, 2010

Christmas is in the air. We’ve never had a particular ritual for Christmas. One year I made a Christmas cake. One year, I roasted a whole chicken. Most years, we don’t do anything. We’ve never had a Christmas tree yet, but this year I went out and bought one for the kids. Of course it was great fun decorating it and the kids are old enough now to enjoy decorating it without destroying it in the process. Next year, I need some Christmas music to go along.

The kids had a Christmas party in school today. Tara reminded me that Mrini “cried too much” when Santa came to school last year. Mrini unabashedly admitted that she did. This year, she’s not going to cry, she said. Santa is going to bring them “two chocolates” each and she’s going to keep one chocolate for mummy (lucky me!) and Tara is going to keep one chocolate for “babi” (as they call Amit). I’m not sure how much of that is prophecy and how much is fantasy, but I suspect it’s going to turn out to be mostly the latter.

All the kids in school turned up in party clothes today, so I hung around as long as I could to admire all the pretty dresses the older girls were wearing. The boys were of course wearing “normal” t-shirts and jeans – nothing to admire there! Some of the girls were in such pretty, pristine white frocks – I wonder how their mothers can possibly manage to keep them in a wearable condition. Mrini and Tara were looking pretty in their frocks too, but theirs were, of course, the least frilly and princess-y frocks visible. Luckily, they don’t mind. Yet.

Tomorrow, they have a dance show, coordinated by their daycare. Mrini has never forgotten their first stage show ( ), back in May. So she was thrilled and excited to be getting a chance to go on stage again. Tara, I don’t know. Their costumes are red and white Santa-type gowns. According to Tara, they will be dancing to the song “The 12 days of Christmas”. But there are only eight kids in their group, so I don’t know how that’s going to work. More interesting is how things will develop backstage. Last time, the show was pure chaos behind the scenes. Let’s see how it pans out this time. At least their daycare coordinator is going in person this time, so hopefully she’ll handle things ok. But I intend to go backstage and snoop around to verify in person.

And then my parents arrive on Friday evening.

And there will be tennis for at least three of us over the weekend. Maybe Tara will be inspired to join too.

And I finished my assignment and sent it out yesterday – three whole days ahead of schedule (of course). I thought it was kind-of ok, but I never have the slightest idea what the professors will think of it. I shouldn’t be surprised if they don’t think much of it – I didn’t give it as much attention as it deserved. But I won’t know for a couple of months.

And we’re all happier now that Amit has got another role in the same organization, so we won’t be one income short in the near future. That was a bit worrying, actually. But he’s quite excited about his new role and there won’t be any break in employment. And, things only really get rolling in January, so he still gets to relax over the holiday season.

So there’s lots to be jolly about! Tra la la la la…

Wimbledon, Here We Come

December 20, 2010

No, we’re not going to watch (hopefully) Federer win on grass again next year. But another 12 years or so down the line, we’re going to sit in the Players’ Box.

In other words, Mrini started tennis coaching this weekend.

She’s been diligently practising both tennis and football with Amit (at home, in our living room, much to the detriment of the TV, music system, glass-fronted framed paintings, glass fronted bookshelf, and new inverter) for the past month or more. When Amit can’t play, she deigns to play catch (with a ball, I mean, not running catch) with me. In sports, as in other spheres, she’s diligent, focused, and persistent. She doesn’t easily get frustrated and she won’t take “no” for an answer.

It was more her eagerness and desire to learn than any innate skill that convinced me that she was, maybe, ready to start formally learning tennis. Amit spoke to Tennis Sir, and he said, “Ok, bring her in, let’s see.”

So on Saturday morning, no more than 30 seconds after I turned on the light, Mrini crawled out of the big, warm blanket and climbed into my arms. Then, as usual, she said “five minutes” and went back into the blanket. Less than five minutes later, she was up, grinning, and pulling on her tennis clothes – a straight-cut, short skirt and a full-sleeved, collarless, white T-shirt.

Tara followed suit and by 6 a.m. we were all in the car and ready to go.

Until 7.30, Amit and I played together, while the kids ran around picking up balls, throwing balls, talking to us, and generally keeping themselves busy. Then Mrini played (somewhat distractedly) with Amit for 20 minutes. (By “played” I mean, Amit threw the ball at her, and she tried to hit it. Mostly, she either missed it, or sent it right over the 12-foot fence.) By then her batch had assembled and done their warm-up and Sir called both of the girls to join them. Tara refused to go, but Mrini marched off excitedly with Amit.

For the next 90 minutes, we all had a blast watching as she made her mark on the world of tennis. She was the shortest of the ten-odd kids in her batch, the youngest, and the newest. One of the girls who was a little taller than her had started last weekend, but she was over six years old. Another boy was a newbie, but he was taller and older and much better co-ordinated. Mrini was so short that when she stood at the net to volley, she couldn’t see the ball coming at her. When she ran to the basket to take out a ball, if the basket was less than half full, she couldn’t reach down into it to pick up a ball.

But she didn’t care. Heck, no. She watched what everyone else was doing and did along with them. She swung at every ball and missed more than half the time, but never mind that. She ran around the court full tilt, picking up balls and sometimes forgetting to throw them back into the basket. She watched other kids and learned that you can collect more balls if you gather them on your racket, so she did that and then watched half of her hard-won collection roll off the racket head when she tried to pick it up.

The best part was when she ran to the net to pick up a ball. Sir told her, don’t pick up a ball from this side of the net, go to the other side. He meant, cross the net and look around the edge of the court for balls that have landed there. What did Mrini do? She took him literally, and instead of looking around the edge of the court, she ran all along the length of the net, right across one court and halfway across the next (where a halfway serious game was in session) to pick up balls!

Then the kids were told to take a ball each and tap. Mrini hasn’t learnt to tap, but she worked at it for a good ten minutes, unmindful of the fact that everyone else already knew how to do it.

Next, they were made to line up at the net and play catch. Mrini can catch a mini-basketball size ball with two hands, but a tennis ball? That’s just asking too much! Still, she lined up, and several times she caught the ball, albeit after one bounce.

Right at the end of the session, two captains were elected and they chose their teams. Naturally, Mrini, being the smallest, the youngest, and the newest kid on the block, was the last to be selected. She was then made the first to run in the relay race that followed. I wondered what she would do, considering she hadn’t seen this particular activity being done. But she understood what she had to do, and, tired as she must have been after a good three hours at the courts, she scrambled as fast as she could all the way around the courts and ended up no slower than the smallest kid on the other team!

Much to my relief, Sir told her to sit down after that. But when everyone was done running the relay race, he made them all do pushups! My baby! Doing pushups with the best of them! What a sight!

Obviously such a prolonged and physical morning outing called for a masala-dosa breakfast. The girls had had a couple of bananas each earlier on, but they still went through one whole masala dosa each, much to my amazement. And when we got home around 10.30, they still had space for their glass of morning milk!

The next session was on Sunday morning. Things went as per expectations except that Mrini was more distracted than on Saturday. At one point, she was looking at us as she walked around picking up balls. A boy who wasn’t looking where he was going slammed into her. Down she went, just exactly like ninepins, landing full length on her back with a thud. Obviously, she wailed and headed towards us. We shooed her away (though that was SO tough to do) and she went sobbing back to her place in the batch. She continued to sob for the next 15 minutes or so, but, resentfully, continued to do her part in all the activities. Of course she walked rather than ran, and continued to glower at everyone and to sob when she came near us, but she continued to do her bit right up to the relay race at the end, in which she ran as fast as she could. Sir jollied her along, firmly but kindly. Amit predicted that by the time the session ended, 40 minutes later, she would come to us with long, loud floods of tears, but I bet she wouldn’t. And she didn’t! She came looking sulky, but a minute later she was smiling again and when I asked her if she had fun and wanted to come back, she nodded happily! Even Sir was a little impressed – “she must have got hurt” he said, when she wasn’t looking.

It was a fantastic experience! I was so, so proud of Mrini. Getting bowled over by a bigger boy mustn’t have been too nice for her, but she held on all the same! And up until that point, she was so comfortable with everything. What coolth that girl has, what complete self-assurance. I love the way she just waded into the throng of six- to -12-year-olds and made herself at home. I love the way she didn’t get fazed at all the things she couldn’t do. I love that she came home thrilled to bits with herself, saying, “I played well!” on Saturday and even after falling over on Sunday, was still happy and looking forward to going back next weekend. I admire her spirit.

Reprehensible… But SO Worth It!

December 18, 2010

This was a three-day weekend for all four of us. Amit, having recently lost his job, was more-or-less on paid vacation (he hasn’t been given notice yet, just told that he doesn’t have a role anymore). The kids and I had a holiday on Friday for Moharram. Great.

But I had an assignment to write. I’d worked on it only last weekend on Saturday, so it wasn’t in great shape yet. I was hoping to get it 90% completed this weekend, so that I could do the remaining 10% next week – mainly proofing it and checking references – and send it off before Christmas Eve.

Amit had his own “stuff” to do and could absolutely not be relied upon to keep the kids busy the whole day. Besides, he said he would go to office for an hour or two in the morning, anyway.

So, we decided to pack the kids off to daycare like we do on most school holidays.

Amit went for tennis in the morning and got back at 8.30, by which time the kids were breakfasted, dressed, and ready to roll. Then, to my immense irritation, he spent two whole hours dawdling around at home and it was 11 before I managed to chase the three of them out of the front door and get down to work.

By noon, Amit was back! He wasn’t going to go to office and he wasn’t going to do “stuff”. As it turned out, he took a nap before lunch, had ordered-in chicken biryani for lunch with me, kept out of my way for an hour after lunch, and then we strolled out for a cup of coffee at the local Coffee Day. At 4.30 he left to pick up the kids from daycare.

For practically the first time ever, we spent an afternoon together, had lunch at home together, had coffee in a cafe together, talked without a thousand interruptions from the kids… and all on a weekday!

I don’t know what kind of a mother I am for sending my (much longed-for) babies off to daycare just so I can spend an afternoon at home with their father… or what kind of parents we both are for sending the kids to daycare when we both are home all day… but they got to play/eat/sleep with their friends (and attend dance class), so they were happy; Amit got to laze around the house all day and take two round trips by bus, so he was happy; and I got a bit of my assignment written, so I was happy. What could be better than that?

It’s Going to Press, They Say

December 14, 2010

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve wanted to be an author for almost my entire life. As soon as I learnt to read books, I wanted to write. And write I did – from abortive attempts at Enid-Blyton style fairytales, to angst-ridden diaries in my teenage years (zealously protected from falling into the wrong hands; or any hands, actually), to flights of fancy when it came to writing school essays (fun to do, but not so effective for scoring marks) to my early attempts at novel-length fiction, to feature writing for a lifestyle magazine… And finally to blogging – 500 posts in 5 years and counting.

In the two years that I worked as a magazine journalist, I realized that I couldn’t write on demand. I got stuck trying to write what someone else wanted me to write. I’d get the piece done, and I’d meet the deadline too, but the words wouldn’t come on their own, and the piece turned out stilted, boring, and dead. I also hated it when I wrote an article I wanted to write, like a travel story, and sent it to a newspaper for publishing, and some lousy sub-editor did a hack job on it and turned my well-spun story into a grammatical and syntactical mess. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!

So I gave up writing to please the market and started writing to please myself. And I decided that if what I wanted to write wouldn’t sell, then I’d die unpublished, but I wouldn’t write what “they” wanted me to write if it wasn’t what I wanted to write.

I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that finding a publisher for my work was no easy job. The first publisher asked to see my completed manuscript back in 2006 and I was walking on air for a few days. When they rejected it with a snort, I was devastated. It took me more than two years to pick myself up, dust myself off, take a long, hard look at my work, re-work it, and begin the ego-battering task of sending it out to publishers again. Altogether, I sent it to 15 publishers. I had just about given up on it, when suddenly… one publisher, and not even one of the last couple of publishers I’d sent it to, but someone I’d sent it to some months earlier and never heard back from, got back to me. They liked it! Could I send the full manuscript?

From that point, it took another several months of delay and despair before I suddenly and altogether unexpectedly got a contract .

But I wasn’t walking on air any more. I’d learnt my lesson. The more you let yourself hope, the harder you fall.

Even now that that book is almost a paper-and-ink reality, I still don’t feel that euphoric joy that I let myself feel the first time. Now, after having almost lost hope altogether, there’s just a faint, cautious optimism, that this firstborn of mine might actually see the light of day. Sometime soon, I hope to be able to walk into a bookshop and see my book on the shelves there – that’s all I want right now.

In the last year-and-a-half, despite – initially – the apparent lack of progress with my first manuscript, I churned out another three manuscripts. One is in cold storage, but the other two are out there now, doing the rounds of the publishers. There are a couple of promising developments. Maybe these two will also become paperback realities some day, but it’s still too early to hope.

It’s not an easy one, this journey to be a writer. So much of your fate rests in other people’s hands. Time crawls by ever so slowly as publishers mull over your work and – too often – just never get back to you. So much of this job is just about following up and waiting, following up and waiting. Writing – that’s just the first step. After that, it’s all about patience and perseverance. And stubborn determination.

The risks are high, and the returns unknown. The most likely outcome of being published is a short shelf life and then… oblivion. The most worrying outcome is that poor distributorship will render your work even more invisible and inconsequential than it might otherwise have been. The least likely outcome is a meteoric and long-lasting ascent to fame and fortune.

I don’t know what outcome lies in store for me and mine. But my first book is hopefully going to press this week. I will soon have a few copies of it tucked away in one corner of my home, so that I can pull it out sometimes and say to myself: At least I got this far.

Truth and Lies

December 8, 2010

Just before Diwali, Mrini told me one morning that she should wear a salwar-kameez to school that day. Since their salwar-kameezes were still quite new, I thought it was the novelty factor that made her say this. And since Diwali and one birthday party were just around the corner, I thought I’d keep the pretty clothes for those occasions and so I sent them off to school in shirt-pant as usual. As soon as we reached there, their class teacher asked them, “Why no salwar-kameez?” That’s when I realized that the suggestion for salwar-kameez had come from the teacher and the reason was that they were celebrating Diwali in class that day.

“I have to pay more attention to what Mrini says,” I thought. Mrini, of course, not Tara, because Mrini is the one who can be counted on to ferry information and instructions reliably from one place to another. It is another matter altogether, and quite a surprising matter too, that Mrini should have been the one to leave her school bag in school one day. That is behaviour one would normally expect of Tara. The difference, of course, is that Mrini was thoroughly embarrassed and abashed to have committed such a blunder, while Tara, if she had done it, would have been mightily indifferent and calculatedly unconcerned with such petty, worldly affairs.

Anyway, a week or two later, again early in the morning, Mrini said: “The teacher told me to take my notebook to school today.”

We’d bought Mrini a new four-lined notebook, so she could practice writing at home. She hadn’t started writing in class, at that time, but she’d been so keen to start that I’d got her started on it at home. Did her teacher want to see what she’d been doing at home? It sounded improbable, but I decided to send her notebook along to class anyway. Obviously, that meant I’d have to send Tara’s too. Tara’s notebook was an old, lined spiral-bound notebook. It was a great deal messier than Mrini’s because Tara wasn’t really interested in writing and was doing it only because Mrini was doing it. Both of them were equally thrilled about taking their notebooks to school, though, and they ran to show them to the teacher as soon as they reached. I spoke to her, too, and it turned out that what she wanted was new four-lined notebooks and square-lined notebooks (one apiece) to get the girls started with writing and numbers in class. Since I hadn’t got those new notebooks yet, she’d use these for a day or two till I got them.

It was on the whole just as well that I’d started paying attention to what Mrini said, because it was she who reminded me that 24th November was a holiday in school. Otherwise, in my usual negligent fashion, I would have wound up driving the kids to school and then wondering why the roads were so empty!

Then there was the day that the kids’ van broke down on the way from school to daycare. Instead of calling us and informing us of it, the van driver took it upon himself to borrow a two-wheeler from someone and drive the kids to daycare on that. Apparently, they reached safely enough. But when Tara told us of this escapade with the greatest delight, we would not have known whether to believe her or not, had not their daycare coordinator confirmed it. After all, Tara routinely tells us about snacks, toys, sweaters and other miscellaneous items being thrown out of the van window and all of that can’t possibly be true. I would not have credited either of them with the creativity of thinking up a motorcycle escapade on their own, but now that it had happened, it became a weekly affair if one were to go by their accounts. Daycare assured us that it had not been repeated and of course, we’d had words with the driver about it, so I’d be very surprised if it were repeated.

Although there are elements of make-believe in the kids’ conversations, I haven’t usually noticed them fabricate stories to gain some advantage. On the rare occasion that they do, it is so transparent as to not be the slightest bit credible. So, when Mrini told me that they had been told by their teacher to wear socks and sneakers to school today, something they love to do and which I very rarely allow them to do (for purely practical reasons – think, wet toilet floors + socks = yuck!), I didn’t for a moment disbelieve her. Partly it was the way she said it. As soon as I reached daycare to pick them up yesterday, she flung herself at me and announced with great excitement that it was sports day today. She went on to say that they would be running races in the big field outside and that they were to wear shorts and “home clothes”.

Despite the chilly (by Bangalore standards) daytime temperatures over the past few days, Mrini wore the skimpiest pair of micro-mini shorts she could find, while Tara settled for a pair of jeans that had gone short. They were ready a good 15 minutes ahead of schedule and could hardly wait to get their socks and sneakers on! Teacher had apparently told them to reach school “early” – at 8.30. I took this to be a general instruction by the teacher to all kids; our girls are usually in school by 8.10, but from what I’ve seen, kids continue to walk in up till about 9 or so. Mrini also informed me that the teacher had clearly said that parents were not invited. Only kids and teachers and akkas. Then she said that the sports day was going to be at some other field, not the one attached to their school, and that they were going to go there by bus.

Since everything she’d told me so far had the ring of truth about it, there was no reason to doubt this statement, except that it made no sense. If you have a nice big field attached to the school, why would you want to take a big bunch of small kids by bus to some other field? Sure enough, when I checked at school, it turned out that everything the kids had told me was true except for this last little bit.

Making up stuff is part of childhood. The girls love to play role-playing games and long ago they had started making up stories, including an entire imaginary family created by Tara whose characters still occasionally pop up in conversation at home. I don’t see any reason to attach any value judgement to their “lies” right now – the more so because they haven’t yet thought of using lies to get something they wouldn’t otherwise get (at least, not usually). So I don’t have a problem with their telling “lies” right now. My only problem is knowing which stories to believe and which to debunk.

Right now, I’m waiting to hear their account of Sports Day to try to figure out how much of it is fact and which parts are fiction!

Everything a Sunday Should Be

December 6, 2010

This is the kind of weekend I like.

Saturday, after a good session of tennis,  was spent at home with the kids. They played together without fighting (too much) and without troubling me (too much) while I studied for a good two hours in the morning – without falling asleep. Amit was out chasing up on the electric work that was pending from last weekend, so lunch was more peaceful than usual. I got some more studying under my belt in the afternoon, and then retired for a nap – something that’s almost completely unheard-of for me. The kids woke me up at 5, and we all went out cycling – that is, they cycled, and Amit and I walked next to them, as usual. Friends dropped in for an ordered-in meal, which is as it should be on a Saturday evening.

Sunday was, if possible, even better. We should have gotten up early and gone for tennis, but we slept till 7.30 instead. We went out around 11-ish, did the grocery shopping and had a long, relaxed lunch at a small, expensive restaurant with a nice patch of lawn for the kids to run around in. Then we went to a sports shop and bought a small football for the kids. Then we went home and the kids slept while I tackled some more archaeology. They got up around 6 and went to play football in the lawn with Amit, while I tidied up the house and organized the kitchen (and, of course, baked a cake). After dinner, we played ball.

Mrini has shown amazing interest in playing ball. She has been taking her tennis very seriously and now manages to make contact with the ball 80-90% of the time. This is in our living room, with the glass-fronted bookshelf at one end, the TV at the other, and two large paintings with glass over them on two walls. “Tennis” involves Amit chucking the ball at one of them, and them swinging valiantly at it with a tennis racket. The tennis racket is a genuine Babolat (miniature), not some toy thing. The ball is a genuine Babolat, too, life-size.

Tara has less conviction about her when she swings the racket at the ball, so she misses more often, but even she makes contact about half the time. Additionally, she has this cute little act where she crouches in the receive-of-serve position and twirls the racket in her hands in imitation of Roger on TV. It may not win her too many points, but it sure gets her all the applause in the house.

Apart from tennis, the girls have been playing vigorous games of football with Amit too. They usually use a child-sized basketball, but sometimes the kids prefer to play with a gigantic, inflated watermelon ball (which was intended to be an inflated chair, but somehow lost its shape and became a ball). A day or two ago, Amit gave the watermelon a few solid kicks and it slammed into the wall like a missile. If it had encountered one of the girls along the way, it would have cleaned bowled her over. Luckily, the next morning, it was flat. With great relief, I dumped it in the garbage bag.

And now we had this football. It was a proper football, albeit slightly smaller than standard. It was properly inflated too. In other words, it was dangerous. Thankfully, even Amit realized that and decreed that it should only be used outdoors. But now that it was dark, the kids couldn’t play outdoors any more.

When we bought the football, we’d also bought a pin, used to inflate the football with. To my delight, I found that the same pin could be used to inflate the two soggy basketballs as well (we already have a foot-pedal air pump that we use for their cycles). The kids were equally delighted to find that their dusty old basketballs had got their bounce back. So we spent an hour playing catch in the living room. First we did one-bounce catch, which they both got, but Tara didn’t really figure out how to throw it back that way. Then I tried to show Mrini how to tap the ball, which she almost got, but not quite (and Tara didn’t want to try). Then we progressed to throwball-style, up-in-the-air catch, which Tara (very wisely) opted out of, choosing to sit in Amit’s lap with his arms around her instead. Mrini wanted to play, of course, and she did quite well, too, though she mostly caught with the ball clutched against her body, not away from it.

It was the most relaxed, easy, and fun way to spend a Sunday evening. In fact, the entire day was the kind of day that makes you feel so good about yourself, your kids, and life in general.

This Time Last Year…

December 3, 2010

…I was struggling with an Archaeology assignment about the effect of the Roman civilization on the rest of the world. This time, I’m struggling with an Archaeology assignment about the development of writing in various regions of the world.

And that’s where the similarity ends. At this time last year, I was sitting at a daycare, holding my breath, hoping the kids would settle down there in the next few days before I joined work. I suffered considerable angst about them reaching the daycare by school van. Would my babies be scared, worried, or want to go to the toilet while they were in the van? Would they be bullied by the other kids? Would the driver be safe and reliable?

I felt a little guilty about the daycare situation as well. They would leave home at 7.30 a.m. and return only around 6.30 p.m. every week day. Would they be secure and comfortable being away from home all day? Would they suffer from too little of my time and attention? Would I suffer? And how would I ever survive the killer commute through suffocating traffic snarls that took over an hour each way?

Meanwhile, we had to sneak in a quick trip to Pondicherry, so that I wouldn’t have to take time off as soon as I joined my new job.

And there was the job itself – I was worried about that too. Would I be able to manage? It had been two years since I’d left my job. Did I still have what it takes to be on par in the workplace? I felt rusty – would I be able to hone what used to be my skills at work? And, equally importantly, could I manage my work and also continue to give my family and home the attention they needed?

With all these worries weighing me down, I struggled to figure out in 3,000 laborious words what, exactly, had been the process and impact of romanisation in the ancient Roman empire. Apparently, I did a halfway decent job of it.

This time, I should be so lucky.

I have nothing to complain about, though. I’ve not got half the worries I had last year at this time. I know the kids are delighted and thrilled with their daycare. Their van situation is mildly worrying, but nothing to be alarmed about. I don’t think we have any more trips to Pondicherry in the offing. I have rediscovered my tech writing and editing skills and learnt a lot of new things along the way. I have been managing to work and keep things going at home for the last whole year without entirely coming apart at the seams. And, best of all, the commute home is now so comfortable that on a good day I can make it home from office in 40 minutes even though I need to take a short detour to pick up the kids.

Yes, this year, my problems are trifling, trivial: How can I improve at tennis? How can I get enough sleep (and why isn’t seven hours a night enough)? How can I stop myself from completely losing it with the kids, especially when they keep putting stuff in their mouth, spitting, or biting? (And why do they do these disgusting things? Why!?!)

Only one problem remains the same, and just as unanswerable as it was last year: How can or (or, in fact, can I) get my assignment out of the door on time? It’s 3000 words! How am I going to come up with 3,000 words about the development of writing in less than three weeks, I ask you. (And yes, I’m a writer – the irony of that question is not lost on me.)

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